The Jesus and Mary Chain, Psychocandy (1985)

Back in my mid-80s college radio days (yes, you'll note the recurring theme here; not surprisingly, that's when a lot of my most enduring musical attachments were formed), there was something of a taste divide among the DJs.  Some of us (myself included) were particularly taken with the jangly pop bands arising in the wake of R.E.M. (and forerunners like the dB's) -- the Connells, the Reivers, Dumptruck, Winter Hours, etc.  Others were more into the thrashier hardcore bands, your Black Flags and Minor Threats and so on.

But occasionally an album would show up in the station that didn't fit into any buckets and was immediately embraced by everyone, the sort of thing that all the DJs insisted on playing on every radio shift for months.  This was one of them.  (The Pixies were a later example.)

Much like the Ramones had taken simple three-chord pop songs, dirtied up the lyrics and amped them up, creating a much-copied version of punk rock, the JMC took simple three-chord pop songs, darkened the lyrics and embedded them behind sheets of feedback and distortion, creating a much-copied version of post-punk.  The band's merging of sweetness and fury made Psychocandy perhaps the most aptly-titled album in memory.

The tunes ranged from gorgeous ballads ("Just Like Honey," "Cut Dead") to joyous Beach Boys pop songs ("The Hardest Walk," "Taste of Cindy," "My Little Underground") to upbeat rockers ("Never Understand").  But each was given an updated Phil Spector wall-of-sound treatment, adorning the simple songs with an assault of sonic overload.  The result was a near-perfect album that managed to embrace classic rock sounds while sounding entirely new and fresh.  They obviously weren't the first band to introduce serious overdrive into the mix, following everyone from the Velvet Underground to Hüsker Dü, but the formula here was tethered to infectious pop.

These days the formula has been followed by a ton of bands, from the Raveonettes to the Vaccines, but when this first showed up it felt truly novel, and the album still stands as inventive and timeless.

Later work by the band saw them gradually easing off the feedback, with more traditional-sounding (but still forceful and fun) indie pop songs and even forays into largely acoustic music (for the latter, I'm a huge fan of 1994's Stoned & Dethroned, which replaced the wall of feedback with a shiny acoustic luster and sounded every bit as bracing).

Here's the "Taste of Cindy" video, and damn if it isn't as enthralling as when I first heard it nearly 35 years ago:
...and the video for the thrashing "Never Understand":
And here's a recent live take on "My Little Underground":


  1. Masterpiece, yes. Ultimate make-out album, well this and Ocean Rain.

    1. You have a much more tolerant make-out partner. This is one of the albums in my collection that has my wife foisting headphones on me when I spin it up.


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